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Dennis and Judy Shepard Respond to ABC News 20/20 Program

November 29, 2004

We know that many people (myself included) watched the ABC news show 20/20 on Friday November 26 that offered a revised version of the Matthew Shepard murder and the attempt of the program to diminish the homophobia that led to his murder. I also taped the program.

The following is a statement from Dennis and Judy Shepard, regarding the program:

"On November 26, 2004, 20/20 aired a piece that promised "new information and facts" about Matt's beating and subsequent death. Dennis and I reviewed an advance copy of the show and were dismayed and saddened by the tabloid nature of the show, its lack of serious reporting of the facts in evidence, and the amateurish nature of asking leading questions to the people who were interviewed.

I, too was asked by 20/20 for an interviews and agreed to do so to ensure that all of the facts were correctly stated. My only stipulation was that our legal advisor, Sean Maloney had to be included in the interview to share his legal knowledge and expertise regarding Matthew's murder He was quite eloquent in stating the facts pertaining to Matt's case, his knowledge of hate crimes in general, and in debunking 20/20's attempt to rewrite history. As you may or may not know, Sean was deleted entirely from the interview. The editing by 20/20 of my interview seems to leave out all of my relevant comments regarding the potential bias of the show and my deliberate restating of the facts of the case clearly ended up on the cutting room floor. My remarks were reduced to a few very personal maternal comments taken out of context to make it appear as if I agreed with 20/20's theories. That could not be farther from the truth.

This same subjective editing occured with Dave O'Malley's interview. Dave, a Captain with the City of Laramie police force at the time, was Laramie's lead investigator in the case and worked in tendem with Rob DeBree, the lead investagator for the Albany County Sheriff's Dept. , to bring the case to trial and to provide the evidence necessary to convict both Russell henderson and Aaron McKinney. (Both officers are in complete
agreement of the facts as stated in the trials).

Dave gave Elizabeth Vargas (who conducted the interviews) a detailed account of the case. He described the elements of hate and gay bias that were found during the extensive investigation and were substantiated in the large body of evidence collected for this case. Dave's comments were severely edited. Perhaps they were left out because he did not give Ms. Vargas the answer9s0 she needed to maintain her "new" theory concerning
the murder. One of the most glaring omissions in the piece was the transcript of Aaron McKinney's in-custody interview which took place a few days after the murder. This occured before any "line of defense" had been established by legal counsel for the two defendants. Had that document been included, it would have shown an un-rehearsed and unemotional anti-gay account of the events before, during, and after leaving Matt tied to the

Despite the promotional efforts to the contrary, 20/20 has not presented a "new" theory. Much of this information was included in a Harper's Magazine cover story in 1999. what is new is the unfortunate downslide of a reputable news magazine show when its highly respected host retires.

20/20 has sacrificed years of professional journalistic ethics and values for a stab at revisionist history...and ratings".

note: at the very end of the program, Elizabeth Vargas stated that Russell Henderson is going to file an appeal of his conviction in federal court on the grounds that he wasn't properly represented at his trial.

As a victim of a similar assault and robbery several years ago, I do have more to say on this issue, but that would make this e-mail too long.

Perry Slone, Director
Beacon Fellowship
2382 Kennedy Avenue
Dayton OH 45420
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